About the project

Visualizations are ubiquitous tools for communicating data, both within science and the popular media. Urgent messages with immediate effects on public life, i.e. the exponential growth of COVID-19, are often communicated via charts or diagrams. It is not clear whether public interpretations of these visualizations match the messages their creators aim to convey. The same is true for data visualizations in science; it is not a given that experts will interpret them the way they are intended.

How do visualization producers create, and consumers understand, the messages carried in visualizations? How do consumers come to trust or to distrust, to act on or to ignore them?

Talking charts is a mixed-methods project exploring how people encode, understand and engage with the messages (and implicit assumptions) communicated by data visualizations, particularly those focusing on COVID-19 and climate change. The project team, with expertise in computer science and science & technology studies, will study and work with members of two case studies: 1) journalists and their readership and 2) researchers in the natural sciences, to develop and co-create tools and guidelines facilitating visual data understanding. We take actual practices of visualization production and sensemaking as a starting point to inform and intervene into design, while at the same time seeking to foster dialogue between visualization producers and consumers.


Talking Charts @ Data Stories 2022

On May 23rd Laura Koesten and Kathleen Gregory will be giving a talk on "Talking Charts: How are everyday visualisations produced and understood?"
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Come work with us!

We are hiring for six exciting new PhD positions at the University of Vienna, Austria.
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Coming soon!

The Talking Charts project will be starting on the 1st of November 2021.
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Welcome Kathleen Gregory!

We are happy that Kathleen Gregory has joined our team at the University of Vienna!


Laura Koesten - Project Lead

Laura Koesten is a Postdoc at the University of Vienna in the Research Group for Visualization and Data Analysis and an external researcher at King’s College London, UK. In her research, she is looking at ways to improve human-data interaction by studying sensemaking with data and visualisations, data discovery and reuse, as well as collaboration in data science. That means she researches how data is used, understood and presented by different user groups. She obtained her Ph.D. at the Open Data Institute in London and the University of Southampton, UK.

Kathleen Gregory

Kathleen Gregory is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Vienna and a research fellow at the Scholarly Communications Lab at the University of Ottawa, Canada. She holds a PhD in in Science &Technology Studies and has a MSc in Library and Information Science and an MA in Education. Her research focuses on data practices and scholarly communication, examining how people manage, communicate, understand and use data in academia and public life.

Torsten Möller

Torsten Möller is a professor of computer science at the University of Vienna, Austria, since 2013. Between 1999 and 2012 he served as a Computing Science faculty member at Simon Fraser University, Canada. He received his PhD in Computer and Information Science from Ohio State University in 1999 and a Vordiplom (BSc) in mathematical computer science from Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany. He is a senior member of IEEE and ACM, and a member of Eurographics. His research interests include algorithms and tools for analyzing and displaying data with principles rooted in computer graphics, human-computer interaction, signal processing, data science, and visualization.

Sarah Davies

Sarah R. Davies is Professor of Technosciences, Materiality, & Digital Cultures at the Department of Science and Technology Studies, University of Vienna. Her work explores how science and society are co-produced – how society defines the conditions of scientific research, and how science is present in wider society. The ‘red thread’ of the digital and digitisation runs throughout. She has written about hackers and hackerspaces, how scientists experience the conditions of contemporary academia, and science communication formats such as science festivals or museums. Her recent work includes the books including Hackerspaces (2017, Polity), Science Communication (2016, Palgrave, with Maja Horst), and Exploring Science Communication (2020, SAGE, with Ulrike Felt).

Collaborating organisations and projects

Our Work


Prior publications related to the project:

  • Laura Koesten, Kathleen Gregory, Paul Groth, Elena Simperl.
    Talking datasets – Understanding data sensemaking behaviours.
    International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, Volume 146, 2021, 102562, ISSN 1071-5819.
  • Laura Koesten, Emilia Kacprzak, Jeni Tennison, Elena Simperl.
    Collaborative Practices with Structured Data: Do Tools Support What Users Need?
    In Proceedings of CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '19), May 4–9, 2019, Glasgow, Scotland UK. ACM, New York, NY, USA.


Reseach Group Visualization & Data Analysis
University of Vienna
Sensengasse 6, 1090 Vienna